For Utah's Avelar sisters, June 15 ends up with a whole new meaning

Published: Friday, June 15 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

"The best way to say it is, 'Hip, hip, hurrah! This is great,'" said an ebullient Archie Archuleta, president of the Utah Coalition La Raza's board of directors.

As for criticism that the announcement was motivated by the presidential politics, Archuleta said simply, "So what?"

His sentiment was echoed by Latino community advocate Tony Yapias, who said critics — particularly members of Congress — have had ample opportunity to work on comprehensive immigration reform and have done very little.

"The blame should go to themselves," Yapias said. 

Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, an advocate of legal immigration, said immigration reform should be left to the legislative branch of government.

"I don't think it's the right solution. It rewards people who did things wrong and in many ways punishes people who do things right," he said. 

The policy change applies to young people who came to the United States before the age of 16. They must have been present in the United States for five years as of June 15, 2012, maintained continuous residence and not been convicted of a single serious crime or multiple minor crimes. They must also be in school, have graduated or have a GED or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military.

Alvarez cautioned that the order will not become effective immediately. But the change acknowledges that the deferrals that ICE has granted piecemeal in recent months are just policy. "What works for the few, works for the many," he said.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he supports the change because it will enable U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on criminal immigrants.

Many undocumented children want to make the most of their educations and serve their country and communities, he said.

"Why not have a whole new group of kids to be our soldiers, scientists, nurses and teachers? These are kids who grew up with our kids, who played with them on Junior Jazz teams. Who would say that is wrong? That's so American. It's a wonderful thing," Shurtleff said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the Deseret News and other media companies under the Deseret Management Corp. umbrella, had no specific reaction to the announcement. 

It reiterated its regard of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to immigration reform and released a general statement on immigration that said in part, "Public officials should create and administer laws that reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society. Such laws will properly balance love for neighbors, family cohesion, and the observance of just and enforceable laws."

The Rev. Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, Vicar General of The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said in a statement, "Although we don't have all the details, it looks very promising and is a step in the right direction."

Roger Tsai, a Salt Lake immigration attorney, said he watched the announcement on a big screen television along with 3,000 other lawyers attending the American Immigration Lawyers Association conference in Nashville.

"It was a beautiful thing to see 3,000 fellow immigration attorneys watching CNN as this major development broke. It's was what so many have been hoping for in the national arena. People were cheering, there were standing ovations, what not," Tsai said.

"It should be a fantastic thing for Utah 'dreamers,' " Tsai said.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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